It’s an NFL football Sunday, and I’m spending it at 35,000 feet. I’m flying home from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles, and consequently I’m unable to watch the Browns game, or any game for that matter. This season, we have NFL Sunday Ticket in our palatial LA estate, and I hate having money I’ve spent go to waste (Except in Las Vegas, which you may not know is a Spanish name meaning “Suuuuure, you might win! Keep trying, moron!” See, my column is a cornucopia of knowledge). In order to make the most of our purchase, I have my beautiful wife recording the game on the DVR, so I can watch it when get home, with or without the express written consent of the NFL. This situation presents a unique challenge, which some of my faithful readers have likely experienced; it’s something that twenty years ago was unheard of, but is becoming more common in 2012. I have to find a way to get from the airport, to the shuttle, to my car, and to the house (Which from here forward will be referred to as “Stately Thomas Manor”), all without hearing any updates or finding out what happened in the game.
Like some of you, I can’t watch a game if I already know the outcome. This strikes me as odd, since I can watch the same movies or TV shows repeatedly; I’ll watch marathons of Cheers, and laugh each time as if it’s the first viewing. This drives my wife nuts, which as any married person knows only makes it more fun for me. Single people, after you’re married for awhile you’ll learn to appreciate winning the “Annoy your spouse” game. Oh, don’t act high and mighty here ladies, you’re the masters at this game - is there a wife out there who can empty a dishwasher without SLAMMING the silverware into the drawer, making enough noise to send the message “If I couldn’t sleep and am awake at 6:45AM, you’re going to be awake too, mister!” Hello? Ladies? Anyone? Thought not. It’s a fun game of marital thrust and parry. Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, I can’t watch a game if I know what happens.
Years ago this wouldn’t have been an issue. Back in the 1980’s, a time period in which my thirteen year old daughter is convinced we still fought Mastodons with spears, all you had to do in this situation was simply turn off the car radio, and you were home free. We could be out of touch any time we wanted back then, but in 2012 that ability is gone. Our wish to remain connected at all times has been granted by the smartphone in our pocket, the one my grandmother refers to as “Stevie’s magic phone.” There are ESPN apps that send out automatic updates on our favorite teams, email blasts, Facebook, Twitter ... a myriad of ways I can have my DVR’d game ruined for me, and there’s virtually no way to turn them all off successfully. Even if you do somehow pull that off, there’s still the human element; sports fans always have friends who we are in contact with on game day. In my case, I spend most Sundays texting with my brother in Ohio about the Browns game, so if he doesn’t remember that I’m on a plane today, I’ll power up my phone after landing and be barraged with stored messages from him; some about the game, others which are simply expletive filled diatribes about the Steelers. (The latter becomes more frequent, and far more vulgar, as his beer intake rises. In the past few seasons, he’s taught me several curse words that I never before knew existed, as well as the wide variety of species with whom Ben Roethlesberger apparently copulates in startling frequency. I’m uncertain exactly how my brother acquires this knowledge, but it’s great fun.) For those wondering, yes I must turn on my phone. Not only am I waiting for several work related messages, but I have to let my wife know I’ve landed, and when to bring the car to the shuttle dropoff. It’s a high wire act of technological avoidance, and one mistake will be the equivalent of using the last of the Frankenberries to make breakfast (or dinner), then spilling the entire bowl in your lap. Tragedy.
So I have to generate a plan, a method for avoiding not only all updates via my phone, but any snippets of conversation around me in the airport or on the shuttle, such as people exchanging scores with friends, or the possibility that I could run into another Browns fan in LA. I know there’s a bunch of us out here, but we tend to stay underground and hidden, kind of like the French resistance in Casablanca, except with fewer Nazis and more bathing. So far, the best plan I’ve created is to stick my fingers in my ears and yell “Lalalalalalalalalallalalalalallala I’m not listening I’m not listening I’m not listening Lalalalalalalalalalalalalalallal!” for the entire time period after debarking the plane until I arrive at home. While I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking “Genius! That is utterly foolproof! Honey, let’s send Stephen a pile of cash, to fund that one man Think-Tank he has going over there!” my plan does have a small flaw, in that this type of public behavior can attract the unwanted attention of those annoying, self righteous, do-gooders known as “the authorities.” Add to that the fact that I’ll be in an airport, surrounded by the TSA, and the “LaLaLa” plan could lead to me spending a bit of time in that little back room marked “secondary security.” Now, I’ve always wanted to know what it looks like back there, and I’ve heard rumors they have cookies, so it could be fun. Also, several hours of psychologically probing interrogation questions (“What’s wrong with you, boy?” “You stupid or somethin’?”) would likely offer protection from hearing the Browns score. However, I believe these small advantages are outweighed by the high probability of a tazer being hooked up to my delicate man parts. (I would like to point out at this time that the good folks of the TSA are highly trained, reasonable professionals, who should in no way take this as an impeachment of their skills, or an invitation to pull me aside for a random cavity search. Just ribbing you, guys! Ha ha!) Plus, there might ultimately not be any cookies back there, and I’m not sure I could handle that level of disappointment. As flawed as it may be, this is the best plan I currently have, so I’m going to implement it 100%. Watch for me on the news.
On a side note, I think it might be fun to Live Tweet the game as I watch it on the DVR four hours late, just to confuse my followers into thinking I’ve completely lost it. In fact, that sounds so fun I might do that in the future with other sporting events, or even old episodes of BJ And The Bear.
Anyway, we were just told to put our tray tables in the upright and locked position, because as we all know, an improperly positioned seat tray will almost certainly distract the pilot to the point where he accidentally bypasses LAX, and instead lands us in the parking lot of a TJ Maxx in Walla Walla. So I need to begin preparations for this gauntlet run up the 405 towards home. Wish me luck. If you text me any score updates, I’ll tell the TSA you’re wearing cocaine underwear.